Sunday, April 19, 2009

Just Got Back From El Salvador

Wow, it has been more than a week since I last posted a blog, probably a record for me in the last two years or so. Though it has been for good reason though, I was spending the time down in El Salvador with my fiancée. Although I thought I'd be doing more touristy things, what I saw was simply incredible. I didn't know what to expect when I went down there other than that the country was poor and Mauricio Funes is like the Barack Obama for the poor.

I did expect some humidity to start with, and it hit hard at the airport. San Salvador was a little more bearable in that regard with the increase in altitude, but as fast as we climbed in elevation, the pollution skyrocketed thanks to fume-belching buses and many cars that were anything but up to U.S. standards. The city was spread out between volcanoes and other mountains, and full of activity. Much of the area is very poor, but there are a few neighborhoods that you'd call upper-middle class in America. The CIA calls it a dangerous place but from my experience in the last week, as long as you don't flash any signs of wealth no one is really going to bother you, so long as you do not venture into dangerous goes for any metropolitan area in and out of the U.S.

Now I could go in a million directions with this post, but I'm going to contain it to politics as much as I can. Driving around the city and throughout the countryside, many Campesinos and San Salvadoreñans alike flew many flags for FMLN and put up posters of Mauricio Funes. I even got myself one of the dozen or so types of FMLN camisetas that are being sold in the markets of central San Salvador. Billboards also dot the landscape, thanking El Salvador for voting for him, even as pictures of the current President still grace the airport and municipal buildings.

From what I gathered in my travels, many people see him as the man that can help save the country from the greedy capitalists. Meanwhile, the ARENA party tried to make voters afraid that he'd turn the country communist. The truth is, the FMLN is not what it was during the civil war and has become much more of a political organization and not a guerilla war operation.

Years of right-wing domination has made the country an outpost for corporate America. It was unbelievable to see the name-brand companies from the United States and oh did they dominate the landscape. Everything from KFC, Burger King and Pizza Hut for food, Shell and Texaco for gas (more expensive down there than it is in New Jersey) and Citibank is practically everywhere. Though there is plenty of the authentic El Salvadoreñan experience awaiting travellers from abroad, there is no way it was this would have flown under a more leftist government.

Many of the voters that gave FMLN its' slight edge are hoping that Funes will be more like a Lula da Silva of Brazil and not a Chavez of Venezuela. What this impoverished country needs is a leader that will stand up for his people without completely scaring away business. Lula has already shown it can be done in Brazil, I hope that Funes can follow in his lead. I can't wait to see how things progress in the coming months and years. At the very least, those in ARENA that are afraid of a communist takeover will have their fears assuaged.